WILLIAMSTOWN — Postal workers not only deliver mail during the Christmas season, but read and reply to it as well.
“We have a drop box for letters to Santa, and we answer every one,” said Miguel Sanchez, postmaster of the Williamstown Post Office.
The U.S Postal Service began receiving letters to Santa Claus over 100 years ago. For many years, such missives ended up in the dead letter office, as they were addressed to a “fictitious” person and were undeliverable.
Whether those letters were destroyed or not, they were never read, as it was against the law to open someone else’s mail.
In 1913, Postmaster General Fred Hitchcock made a permanent exception to that rule and authorized local postmasters to allow postal workers and individuals to respond to letters to Santa.
Aaron Flynn, postmaster of the Adams Post Office, found in his youngest daughter an enthusiastic volunteer.
Mackenzie Flynn, a 24-year old graduate student at The College of St. Rose, is now into her 10th year of creating for children the magical moments and lifelong memories of receiving a letter from Santa.
As the youngest of four children, Mackenzie was a “believer” long after her siblings were.
“My parents made it clear to my siblings that they were not to spoil my excitement. Actually, it was my siblings who answered my letters to Santa,” Mackenzie said when we spoke by phone. “I never had a younger sibling, so, I really like getting to be Santa Claus now.”
Mackenzie composes and hand-writes a specific reply to each child’s letter. “My father gives me Santa Claus paper to use,” she said.
“The children’s letters are legitimate,” the elder Flynn said. “They often do not have opening sentences or any sentences, but are pieced together in no particular order.”
The letters are scrawled or printed in pencil or crayon in various colors.
“A lot of children draw pictures of a Christmas tree or themselves with Santa,” Mackenzie said. “I also draw pictures on my replies.”
Mackenzie has found that children ask for gifts for their siblings, as well as for themselves. But, they do not always ask for toys or board games; some ask for technology devices — video games and such.
Sometimes the children write about more than gifts: “Which reindeer will lead your sleigh?” a child asked. “Rudolph does a good job,” Mackenzie replied, referring to the famous red-nosed reindeer.
Mackenzie and her father find some letters heartbreaking: “My parents are getting a divorce”; “My mother’s really sad. I want her to be happy”; or “my mother says Santa won’t be coming.”
“I never promise to bring children anything they ask for,” Mackenzie said, explaining that she does not want the children to be disappointed.
But, she does not dash the children’s hopes and dreams of discovering presents beneath the Christmas tree.
“I try to be positive,” she said. “I tell the children that the elves have been checking on them and say they have been good.”
The COVID-19 pandemic has made this a difficult year for people all around the world, and children are no exception.
Children are worried about Santa’s health, but now that the World Health Organization has reported that Santa Claus is immune to COVID-19, Mackenzie can assure them that Santa is well and will deliver presents on Christmas Eve.
Postmaster Flynn does everything within his power to ensure that children receive answers to letters to Santa they deposit at the Adams Post Office.
“If a letter does not have a return address, I tell my Dad,” Mackenzie said. “He has a way of tracking down the origin of the letter.
“Christmas Eve, he checks the drop box to make sure it is empty. When he finds a letter remaining there, I write a reply and he hand-delivers it,” she said. “I enjoy sharing my Christmas spirit with others.”